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2021 Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV Real World Range

mitsubishi outlander phev 2021 15 black exterior front angle suv scaled jpg 2021 Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV | photo by Aaron Bragman

The Mitsubishi Outlander you see here is a bit of an oddity. It’s not the all-new 2022 Mitsubishi Outlander that just arrived at dealerships, based on the Nissan Rogue and vastly improved in every conceivable way. No, this is the old Outlander — similar to the last one we tested in 2018 — featuring the plug-in hybrid system from Mitsubishi and no Nissan makeover. Mitsubishi has made some upgrades to the plug-in hybrid SUV for one model year only, 2021, as a new PHEV (as in, plug-in hybrid electric vehicle) based on the redesigned Outlander due next year. Why just one model year for the improvements? Well, it actually received these improvements a while ago in the global market, so the U.S. is just playing a bit of catch-up. But the changes are substantial enough to warrant a retest of the outgoing SUV to see what impact they’ve had on its all-electric range.

Related: 2022 Mitsubishi Outlander: More Space, More Tech and a Lot More Styling

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2021 Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV SEL
19,815 mi.

The Ride

I last had a go at the Outlander PHEV a few years ago when it first arrived on our shores. The 2018 model was powered by a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine and two 60-kilowatt electric motors, one at each axle. It produced a combined 190 horsepower and was rated to go 22 miles on electric power alone, thanks to its 12-kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery. For 2021, Mitsubishi has introduced a larger (2.4-liter) engine, a 13.8-kWh battery and a more powerful 70-kW electric motor at the rear transaxle. As a result, the slightly updated Outlander PHEV produces a combined 221 hp and is EPA-rated to go 26 miles on electricity before the gas engine kicks on to keep the party going. 

It’s a bit more powerful, a bit more efficient and goes a bit farther on electricity. But how much farther does it go in the real world? The last one was rated at 22 miles, but without trying too hard, I managed to get 27 miles on a cold, drizzly day. I had bigger hopes for the new one, given the better weather conditions and improved equipment.

mitsubishi outlander phev 2021 18 center stack display dashboard front seat interior steering wheel suv scaled jpg 2021 Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV | photo by Aaron Bragman

The Route

The standard route I use to test the range of a plug-in hybrid is a simple 56-mile round-trip jaunt from my home in Ann Arbor, Mich., to a BBQ joint in Dearborn — a nice mix of urban stop-and-go driving, two-lane suburban streets at lower speeds and four-lane boulevards at highway speeds. I make sure the vehicle has a full tank of gas and a full charge, and the tire pressures are to the manufacturer’s recommended level when cold. When testing a PHEV like this, the goal is to see just how far it will go without hypermiling, but I take some steps to try and give the vehicle help — the climate control is off, the windows are up and any driver-selectable EV mode is activated. Cruise control cannot be employed on this Outlander PHEV if you have it in EV mode; it automatically selects Normal (hybrid) mode, as it apparently doesn’t want to be limited on decisions around how to best maintain speed. I keep acceleration to a reasonable rate (no feathering the throttle to cause honking horns behind me), and speeds to within 5 mph of the posted limits.

mitsubishi outlander phev 2021 13 black charging exterior rear angle suv scaled jpg 2021 Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV | photo by Aaron Bragman

The Results

With cooperative weather and traffic, the results for the 2021 Outlander PHEV were even more impressive than for the prior version. The updated model is rated for 26 miles of pure electric range, but when I set off on my test, the predicted range already read 29 miles (it learns the driver’s style to predict range based on past results). When the predicted range hit zero and the gas engine kicked on, I had traveled 36.1 miles in total, more than 10 miles beyond what the EPA says the Outlander PHEV should do in the agency’s test cycle. That’s more than enough for most people to commute to work and back.

The Outlander PHEV also features something unique for a plug-in hybrid: DC fast charging using a CHAdeMO connector. That’s a bit outdated — most new plug-ins support connections under the Combined Charging System (CCS) format — but Mitsubishi says that it can charge the Outlander PHEV up to 80% in as little as 25 minutes. That’s a capability most plug-in hybrids don’t have, though the charge speed isn’t so impressive anymore. Many full EVs can charge a much larger battery pack (and thus reap more range) to 80% in similar time thanks to higher capacity onboard chargers. 

Out of curiosity, I pulled up to a local EVgo DC fast charger and plugged the Mitsubishi in. I arrived with a 26% state of charge, according to the charger, and it began pumping juice into the battery at a rate of 20 kW. That lasted through about a 76% charge, when the rate throttled back to 9 kW. Total time spent at the charger was 28 minutes to reach an 81% charge from 26%. The total cost for that session, however, was $10.39 for 8.39 kWh of electricity (which is actually less per kWh than the $9.49 it cost me to add 5.67 kWh to an Outlander PHEV three years ago, interestingly). And that gained me about 20 miles of electric range — still not a very cost-effective idea, making me question the point of a DC fast charger on a plug-in hybrid. It makes a lot more sense for a pure EV, but one that schleps along its own gas-engine backup? Not so much. What’s more, if a pure EV shows up at the charger only to see your gas-electric hybrid occupying the space they absolutely need to get back on the road, you’ll get some stink eye for sure. 

mitsubishi outlander phev 2021 08 charging stations scaled jpg 2021 Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV | photo by Aaron Bragman

Change Is Coming

The rest of the Outlander PHEV is barely worth mentioning — it’s the finest example of a 1990s-era Japanese SUV you can buy. If you’re nostalgic for designs, electronics and interior materials of that era, you’re going to love the 2021 Outlander PHEV. But I’d suggest waiting for the redesign, which will reflect the vastly improved, Nissan-based redesign. It’s coming in the second half of 2022, and Mitsubishi says it will again feature an all-wheel drive system employing electric motors on the front and rear axles, as well as seven drive modes. 

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Detroit Bureau Chief Aaron Bragman has had over 25 years of experience in the auto industry as a journalist, analyst, purchasing agent and program manager. Bragman grew up around his father’s classic Triumph sports cars (which were all sold and gone when he turned 16, much to his frustration) and comes from a Detroit family where cars put food on tables as much as smiles on faces. Today, he’s a member of the Automotive Press Association and the Midwest Automotive Media Association. His pronouns are he/him, but his adjectives are fat/sassy. Email Aaron Bragman

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